NHS England has revealed a five-year plan to help general practice get “back on its feet”. An additional £2.4bn ($3.4bn) in funds over the next five years will help provide an extra 5,000 GPs as well as thousands of nurses, pharmacists and therapists.
The massive increase in resources comes after mounting pressure from GP leaders over increasing workloads. Patients have also complained about long waits to see a doctor.
Some estimates suggest 40% of a GP’s working week is spend on tasks such as repeat prescriptions, referrals and form-filling rather than face time with patients.
Under the plan, other health staff will take on many of those “back office” functions.
GPs will also be encouraged to allow patients to consult them by phone, email and smartphone apps – and work with neighbouring surgeries to offer more evening and weekend appointments.
And patients may be directed where appropriate towards alternative health professionals working in the surgery.
But the biggest challenge will be finding 5,000 more GPs.
NHS England hopes the more positive tone in general practice will attract more GP trainees, and efforts will be stepped up to attract back doctors who have retired early or gone to work abroad.
Dr Maureen Baker, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, welcomed the move.
“This is the most significant announcement for our profession since the 1960s,” she said.
“For too long GPs – and our members – have been undervalued, underfunded, and not recognised for the essential role we play in keeping the health service sustainable and safe for patients.
“We genuinely hope that today’s news marks a turning point for general practice.”